Wednesday, December 19, 2012


As you know, I love a good diner (just take a look at my book, Every Friday or The Big Diner from my series, Oswald or my waistline), so before I left for my visit to Muhlenberg Elementary in Kutztown, PA, I did a little diner research.

I found a place called LETTERMAN'S DINER, which was about 2 blocks away from where I was staying. Why does it appear that this photo was taken at night? Because it kind of was. I shot this at 6AM (still nighttime for me) when they opened. In fact, Letterman's was the ONLY place open at that hour. I had to get to the school pretty early and needed a hearty breakfast, so it was wonderful to see their lights on down the street like a beacon of warmth, food and coffee in the cold, cold darkness of pre-dawn.

So here it is. It was pretty empty as you can see except for the grill man and the waitress. I waited until they went in the back to take the picture. I bet you thought they ducked behind the counter.

Don't you just love this place?

Coffee, two eggs over easy, rye toast and sausage. This is the kind of breakfast that will keep you going all day long or possibly knock you out at around 11AM like a bear getting shot with a tranc dart. I was willing to take my chances, so I dug right in.

By this time the place started to fill up, mostly with regulars being that they all seemed to know each other. I pretended to read my book, but I was really trying to listen to their conversations. 

Okay, so my membership to the Clean Plate Club has now been revoked. I couldn't do it. It was great but just too much for me. Besides, I had to hit the road. The kiddies were waiting!

Maybe there's time for a quick nap before I go.

More on my visit to Kutztown, PA in a future post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It was another great school visit with another great bunch of kids!
Just look at all of the incredible artwork! I hope you noticed the cool display of my books in the library. Nice! It always makes me feel welcome. I'm blown away every time I see stuff like this.

I hope everyone had as good a time as I did. This is me giving my presentation. I wave my hands around a lot. I'm Italian, so I can't help it.

I signed lots and lots of books and had lots of great conversations.
"You're funny," a 1st grader said to me.
"It's my job," I told her.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012



CLICK HERE to watch a fun interview by the amazing Katie Davis with me in my studio.

Be sure to check out

Monday, November 26, 2012



For those who know me, you know I love all kinds of food, which is one of the reasons why I LOVE living in New York City.

A big night out for me when I was growing up was going to the local Chinese restaurant. I have fond memories of the red table cloths, waiters carrying sizzling platters and lanterns hanging from the ceiling. My favorite item on the oversized red leatherette-covered menu was the PU PU PLATTER, mostly because it was served on a mini lazy susan with an open flame in the center! It was the height of dining and danger for an 8-year old. How I loved re-cooking my spare ribs and shrimp toast!

Years later, I still have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for that cuisine and my favorite place to go in Chinatown is Wo Hop.

Just to give you an idea of where it is, here's a screen shot from my phone. It's right in the heart of Chinatown!

Excitement mounts in the pit of my stomach (or is it just hunger?) as I get closer.

Did I mention that Wo Hop is not a fancy place? I'm not the type of person who is put off by appearances. Just as long as the food is good!

Insider's tip: There are actually 2 locations right next to each other. I've only eaten at the street level restaurant once (when the basement level location had a very long line, which is usually the case on Sunday afternoons). I have no idea if the food is exactly the same or not, I just prefer the lower level, maybe because I've been coming here for 25 years and I'm set in my ways.

See? They got an A.

While you're waiting for your food, you can search the walls for a familiar face in these photos. So far I haven't been able to identify a single person. Perhaps they're all celebrities from an alternative universe.

This is why I come here: THE DUMPLINGS! They're my favorite menu item. They're served with a very think soy sauce. I've never tried, but I'm sure I could eat about 50 of them.

Isn't this a lovely still life? Today I ordered some chicken soup, which was just thing I needed on such a chilly day. The soup comes with those wonderful crunchy noodles. As a kid, I would dip them in duck sauce with just a touch of that incredibly HOT mustard if I was feeling brave. I'm pretty sure the mustard can melt through metal. I can only imagine what it does to the lining of my stomach.

Satisfied, I heave my fully belly back up those stairs and head across the street for some retro video game action. Hmmm. I wonder what ever happened to the Dancing and Tic Tac Toe Chickens? Who knows?

Anyway, my chicken soup was great and- hey, wait a minute...

Sunday, November 18, 2012



I had an INCREDIBLE time with the students at Bayville Intermediate in the wilds of Long Island, NY. Why was it wild? On my way there from the train station, I saw TREES EVERYWHERE and some of them were still standing (no thanks to Hurricane Sandy).

I live in Manhattan, so I don't get to see many real live trees up close. A big thanks to my host for stopping the car on the way there so I could touch a few.

It was so great to walk into the school and see this wonderful bulletin board with some of my characters on it. By the looks of the artwork, I see that I'm going to have some seriously talented children's book illustrators to contend with in the future!

Either these kids were incredible well behaved or they were entirely riveted by my brilliant presentation. Still not sure. I figured that they enjoyed it since no one cried.

After my presentations, I visited my favorite place in all schools: THE LIBRARY. And what did I see? This cool board! Memo to myself: update my author photo and grow more hair.

Fun fact about me: my hand never gets tired from signing books, only washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom and lifting heavy objects that are not books for me to sign.

You'll notice the wonderful lunch just behind the books. Shrimp cocktail? Caesar salad? Brownies? Message to fellow children's book authors and illustrators: If Bayville Intermediate asks you to speak at their school: DO IT! They have excellent taste in food AND children's book authors (they asked me, didn't they?)

I had a brief moment with each student. Fist bumps all around! Then Purell Hand Sanitizer!

This was the pièce de résistance (or creme de la creme for those of you who don't speak French): a massive mural of my books! Beyond cool! They did such an incredible job!

I enjoyed some wonderful letters on the train ride home.
Thank you, Bayville Intermediate! I hope you all had as much fun as I did!

Thursday, November 8, 2012



One of the great perks of writing and illustrating children's books is that I get to visit schools and meet the kids who read my books face to face.

I'm often greeted by a big beautiful banner like this one.

It's wonderful to walk down the halls and see that the students were inspired to create their own art.

And especially robots!

And sometimes I'm presented with incredibly cool cakes based on my books. They were too gorgeous to eat!

I LOVE it when teachers and librarians use my books for curriculum.

And a few weeks later, I sometimes receive a big envelope full of art from the students I met. I love getting these!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012



My new picture book Kate & Nate Are Running Late! was just released a few weeks ago. I had a wonderful time creating the illustrations for this book. I'm not sure if she was spying on me but, the author Kate Egan really captured the harried atmosphere of a weekday morning in my house.

Whenever I visit a school, I talk about my books and make sure to tell the students how important the cover is to me. "Because if you like the cover of a book, you're going to pick it up, and if you pick it up, you'll open it, and if you open it, you'll look at the pictures and if you like the pictures, you'll READ IT!"

This was my original sketch for the cover, which I thought was pretty good, until the designer made it beautiful!

Here's a sketch of an interior piece with the main characters trying (or not trying) to get ready for the day. As you can see, sister Maddie is clearly above it all.

And here's the painting.

If you know my work, you know that I love reflective images.

It makes more sense in color, of course.

I'm a MAJOR fan of end pages and I like them to help tell the story or enhance the book in some way, rather than just be decorative. In the end pages for Kate & Nate, I wanted to show the little family in different situations in order to reveal their personalities and lifestyle.

As you can see, there were revisions, but I still think they're fun and enhanced the book in a small way.

Friday, November 2, 2012



I visited Pixar Animation Studio in Emeryville, CA a few weeks ago to give a presentation about my work in books, commercial illustration and TV. I had a great time!

There's a giant Luxo statue in the front of the building. Not sure where they buy the lightbulbs for it.

There were statues of Buzz and Woody made out of Legos. I did not dare touch it.

I made some new friends.

They even had their own coffee machine! I chose the special Pixar blend. Mmmm!

Friday, October 26, 2012



I had such a great time at the Sheboygan Children’s BookFestival last week because a.) everyone was so incredibly nice (which would normally make me suspicious) and b.) because I think I’m running out of states I’ve never been to before.

The Kohler Arts Center was lovely; this is one of their urinals. I kind of felt bad using it.

I made a few new friends there, like these guys.

And the fantastically talented and incredibly nice (although I don’t think he’s from Wisconsin) Mr. Steven Kellogg. I wish we had more time to talk, but our speaking and signing schedules were a bit hectic. However, I did manage to get a picture with him, which I will treasure.

I also saw my good friend Andy Rash (he’s working on being incredibly nice since he lives there now and is required by law) and we had breakfast at an “old school Milwaukee” diner, Benji’s. I had the corned beef hash and eggs.

I was not permitted to leave the state until I ate an entire plate of fried cheese curds.